The evergreen long-lived plants have a long tradition as hedges and topiary. There are more than 70 boxwood species, but the European common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) and the Chinese boxwood (Buxus harlandii) are the ones most often styled as bonsai.

In nature the boxwood often grows with twisted trunks and branches. The flowers are greenish-yellow and attract bees. All plant parts are poisonous. Boxwoods are very robust and can grow even on barren ground, in full sun or shade. As boxwoods tolerate constant trimming very well and can bud from old wood, they are very well suited for bonsai. The common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) tolerates frost but trees planted in containers should be protected from very low temperatures in winter. The Chinese boxwood (Buxus harlandii) has smaller and narrower leaves and a furrowed bark. It is not frost hardy and therefore it should be kept in a cool room with sufficient light in winter.

If you need help identifying your tree, try our Bonsai tree identification guide.

 

Specific care Bonsai guidelines for the Buxus (Boxwood)

Position: The common boxwood should be positioned outside in a sunny or semi-shaded place. In the winter a cold greenhouse is ideal for winter protection. The Chinese boxwood  can be kept indoors but it prefers to be placed outside during the summer. For the winter the Chinese boxwood should be taken into a cool room with temperatures around 50°F / 10° C and enough light.

Watering: In summer the boxwood needs a lot of water, but it can withstand short dry periods. Avoid excess soil wetness. As the ideal pH value for the boxwood is 7 to 8, most normal tap water of good quality can be used.

Feeding: Use solid organic fertilizer every month or a liquid fertilizer every week during the growing season. Don't fertilize the common boxwood during winter dormancy. The Chinese boxwood, which will not be completely dormant in its winter place, should be fertilized once a month in winter.

Pruning and wiring: Trim the new shoots leaving one or two pairs of leaves. If the canopy becomes very dense the leaves should be thinned out in order to let light get in, prevent the inner twigs from dying and encourage back-budding. Common boxwood tolerates hard pruning and extensive deadwood sculpturing very well. When the boxwood is wired you must take care not to damage the delicate beige bark. Wire marks will be visible for a long time.

Repotting: Repot the boxwood every two to five years depending on its age and size. Boxwoods tolerate root pruning well. The soil mix should have a pH value of 7 to 8. You can add some pumice or lime rock gravel to your normal soil mix.

Propagation: The boxwood can be propagated from cuttings and air-layering. Best results are achieved in spring.

Pests and diseases: The boxwood can be attacked by fungal diseases (box blight or phytophthora root rot in wet soil, for example), nematodes, scale, boxwood mite, boxwood leafminer or boxwood psyllid. There are specific pesticides for most pests and diseases and it can be a good idea to ask a professional gardener for help in serious cases. Recently the boxwood moth has become a severe problem in Europe. Its long green caterpillars can skeletonize a boxwood plant very quickly. From bonsai trees the caterpillars can be collected by hand. Pesticides based on Neem oil or Bacillus thuringiensis are also effective against boxwood moth caterpillars.

For more detailed information on these techniques, try our Bonsai tree care section.

 

 

Example of a Buxus (boxwood) Bonsai tree

Buxus, Boxwood Bonsai